This book is about the re-awakening of art and creative expression in everyone, together with a parallel growth in consciousness.
Once upon a time, art was used as a tool to express the state of meditation, a tool to come closer to oneself. There was a time when art was alive and creativity was walking hand-in-hand with ordinary life.
Unfortunately, those days are gone. In today’s over-specialized society, art is increasingly the exclusive reserve of professionals. It is no more an innocent and joyous act. Meera approaches the reawakening of art through offering painting trainings and workshops, waking peoples’ forgotten source – the creative impulse hidden in us all – which is ready to be freed at any moment.
This book simply is an invitation for the reader to examine: “What is creativity for me?” It is a doorway to rediscover what is original in you, which is nothing but your own individual expression of life’s ongoing dance.
This is a strange place in which to create a revolution in contemporary art. In fact, the artistic revolution that is growing here goes way beyond contemporary, because nothing like it has happened in the whole history of art, except perhaps in the Far East, centuries and centuries ago.
Also, I have to be honest and say that this revolution will go unrecognized for at least fifty or a hundred years. That’s just the way things go, and, in fact, it’s always been like that. In any field of creative expression, the real revolution happens long before most people realize it.
Those who believe they are the pioneers of modern art today will continue to lead people down a blind alley until one day they will turn around and see that, years earlier, art had gone in a totally new and different direction. They will be left stranded and not a little embarrassed, rather like railway workers, laying track across a virgin land, who misread the map, took a wrong turn and went into a desert.
Of course, this sounds very egoistic and fantastic, but I can’t help it. I have to say the truth. I have to straighten up the whole direction of modern art. That’s the main reason why I’m writing this book, and it will take a little time to explain, so please be patient with me.
What makes it strange is that, in this place, where I mostly live and work, the artistic revolution in which I am involved is just a by-product. It’s not the main focus of what’s happening and the people who know about it are not particularly impressed. They smile, give me a hug and say, “Oh really? That’s interesting. Keep it up, Meera!” and go about their business.
Meera is my name. Painting is my game.
And now you will have to excuse me because I have to go and pick up the participants in my annual painting training who are waiting in the plaza.
I walk in through the back gate of the meditation resort in my black robe and, with a wide, toothy grin and a “Hello! Good morning!” refuse to show my pass. You see, I have some kind of authority-thing with gates and passes.
The guard, a middle-aged Indian woman with tied-back silver hair has been through this with me many times and, without lifting a finger to stop me, complains indulgently, “Meera! Sometimes you have to show your date sticker to me!”
To which I respond with a cheery wave and a few Japanese words thrown back over my shoulder, for I am already through the gate and walking down a narrow path, lined with tall bamboos and black-painted buildings, heading towards the heart of the resort.
Further along the path I catch a glimpse of myself in a blue-tinted, floor-length office window and stop for a moment to take a longer look. Once in a while, it’s good to remember what others are looking at, especially at the beginning of a long training program like the one that starts today — Meera is going to be onstage for the next six weeks.
I look a little wild: long, shiny, dark hair with a few grey ones hidden in the depths, bangs cut low across the forehead, a classic Asian face with olive skin, brown sparkling eyes, a broad nose and a sensual mouth. Put a fur cap on me and I could be a nomad from Tibet or Mongolia. Let me slide into a kimono and I could surprise you as an elegant geisha hostess. See me crack up in a smile or laugh and I look like a little girl from a fishing village on the East coast of Japan, which is in fact where I was born, some fifty-four years ago.
Now I am coming into the plaza, a large, square-shaped assembly area, floored with dark green marble and bordered by gardens on three sides. Today it is crowded with people, most of whom are wearing maroon-colored robes and looking for the right place to stand, because at least three courses are starting this morning.
Mine has 25 participants, eight helpers, three translators, two assistants and one co-leader. The participants come from all over the world, from Greece, Italy, Israel, Scandinavia, Russia, Switzerland, Japan, Taiwan, Brazil, Australia, Mexico, the United Kingdom and the United States.
There is a sign marking the assembly point for each group and mine says “Master Painter Training,” but some people have difficulty reading English and aren’t sure where to go, so the general effect is one of a colorful chaos, like some kind of international, spiritual train station.
The full name for the plaza is Osho Multiversity Plaza, which is part of the Osho Meditation Resort in Pune, India. This is where I conduct my annual painting training, as well as some shorter courses, and this is where I choose to spend a big chunk of my life.
The plaza is where visitors sign up for a variety of programs, ranging from Primal Therapy to Vipassana to Shamanic Healing. The short programs last 1-3 days, but trainings like mine are much longer.
As I mingle with the crowd, a few people come to me and say they are still unsure whether they want to commit so much time, energy and money to the painting course. In the past, I would have tried to charm them, seduce them into signing up with me, but this time I don’t try to pull them in.
I say to one, “If you can’t decide, it means you’re not meant to come.”
I don’t want people to come to me accidentally, on a whim, because in life you can’t get everything at once. If you’re not getting what you need here with me, then I trust that you can get it somewhere else.
Another thing I often notice is how people tend to put creativity aside. People come to this place because they want to explore themselves, they want to embark on an adventure of self-discovery through meditation, therapy, education in esoteric arts, all kinds of workshops. There’s so much to choose from that it’s like a laundry list, with creativity too often at the bottom.
“Yes, Meera,” they say, “I’d love to spend some time painting with you, but first, I have to do some serious therapy, dig deep into myself, look into the dark corners of my being, heal the pains and fears, find my true nature…. Then maybe one day I can be creative.” That’s a common understanding of creativity.
I want to assert that this approach is wrong. If you really want to see into all your dark corners, you need a lot of energy, you need a lot of light inside so you can face the problems that you are going to encounter. Creativity does this part, supporting the beautiful side in you. Once this side is supported, you are ready to look at the dark corners with joy, not with a heavy heart.
Start from creativity, which is linked to the discovery of your inner child, linked to spontaneity and sensitivity. Then you are not crushed down by darkness, but instead you say, “Aha! So this is what I have to look at in order to grow.” It’s a totally different attitude that you bring to your growth.
Well, now you see that I am being carried away by my own prejudices. If I take a few deep breaths and calm down, then I can tell you the truth: you can start your inner journey from anywhere, from the dark or the light. It doesn’t matter. If you are sincere and intelligent in your search, you’ll find your way.
It’s just that I get annoyed when people assume that the way of joy and creativity is less valuable than suffering. To me, it’s a product of thousands of years of religious indoctrination: be sad, serious, and you are on the right path: be joyful and playful and you aren’t a sincere seeker.
In the plaza, we have a problem. One Italian woman doesn’t have a translator and this is unusual because normally we organize very well with translators – there is no shortage of volunteers, since translators get a free ride through the whole training. They do the course, but they don’t have to pay. Then I remember: two people applied for the job and I sent them away because I didn’t feel they would fit.
Groping for a solution, I think of Vardhan, an Italian woman in her forties, who is training with me to be an instructor. Here, I should explain that, side by side with the painting training, I run an instructor’s training for those who want to learn how to lead these kinds of courses. There are five people signed up this time.
“So Vardhan can be the translator,” I decide. It’s a good challenge for her: when translating she will need to be very accurate in what she is hearing and observing, otherwise the person who cannot understand English will miss much. And with my very special way of speaking English, it’s easy to miss what’s being said.
I check with Vardhan; she likes the idea, so the problem is quickly solved and we are ready to move. We all walk together, participants, helpers, assistants, translators, along the path that leads to the back gate of the resort and across a public road to a cluster of large, handsome-looking black pyramids that were built several years ago at the suggestion of Osho. Who exactly Osho is and what he has to do with creativity and painting is something I prefer to explain later on.
We enter the largest pyramid, named after Naropa, an enlightened mystic in the tradition of Tantric Buddhism who lived in India about a thousand years ago. All the buildings in the resort are named after enlightened mystics from different countries, different periods of history and different spiritual traditions: Lao Tzu, Krishna, Jesus, Meera, Rinzai, Kabir… and so on…